Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Exit from Brexit

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 11th February, 2018

Catherine Bearder 3Yesterday Catherine Bearder MEP hosted a rally in Richmond-upon-Thames as part of the LibDems’ campaign to Exit from Brexit. As the Party’s London spokesperson on Brexit, I gave a short speech of welcome, underlining the importance of two dates this year. First is May 3rd., when there will be all-out elections for councillors in all 32 London boroughs. Though obviously local issues will be at the fore, these elections can also serve as a verdict on the Conservative government’s chaotic performance so far in relation to Brexit. Moreover, for citizens of the other 27 EU member states who are resident in the UK, this is a chance (maybe their last) to make their voice heard through the ballot box. So local parties need to be encouraging those who are not yet on the electoral register to get on, and to make clear to EU voters that the Liberal Democrats are the only major party in England campaigning for an Exit from Brexit. The second important date is October, by which time, in principle, the UK and EU will have mapped out their proposed new trading relationship, and a public vote on the details of that deal would be timely. So we need to persuade the public as well as Parliament over the next six months or so that such a vote is desirable, so they can pass their verdict on “Is this really what you want?”

Sarah Olney Catherine Bearder Costanza de TomaFittingly at a time when Britain is celebrating the centenary of the extension of the franchise to women (over 30, initially), the rest of yesterday’s event was entirely in the hands of women. Catherine Bearder gave a speech outlining many of the practical problems that will occur if Britain does leave the Customs Union, as the Government maintains. Many things will be more expensive, choice will be reduced and there will inevitably be delays, threatening the viability of many businesses. Sarah Olney, LibDem MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston until last June’s general election, gave an update on the progress (or otherwise) in Parliament regarding the EU Withdrawal Bill and other related legislation. The House of Lords is currently proving its worth by critically analysing what is before it. But there is a growing feeling that the timetable the Government has set for Brexit is impossibly short. The third principal speaker yesterday was Costanza de Toma of the 3 Million group, which lobbies for the rights of EU citizens here (and liaises with representatives of UK citizens on the continent and in the Republic of Ireland, who will also be impacted by Brexit, if it goes ahead). Much of her testimony highlighted the gross injustices and absurdity of the way the situation is developing, as well as the frequent incompetence of the Home Office. The 3 million are encouraging EU citizens to vote in local elections in May, so they could make a real difference.

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One Response to “Exit from Brexit”

  1. While I would love to find a way of remaining within the EU, I think there are serious problems with a second referendum. First, we would definitely have to have a referendum as the mistake of holding the first one means that Parliament alone would risk deep and lasting social division if it alone decided not to proceed, especially if the unelected House of Lords is seen to have anything to do with thwarting the popular vote. Second, there is the question of legitimacy. people can intellectualise as much as they like about the first referendum being on the principle and the second one being on the detail but the overwhelming majority will see it as another In/Out vote. In which case, how big a majority for staying in would have to be achieved in order to trump the first referendum? I know the opinion polls are notoriously unreliable (and have been for the last ten years) but the latest well structured one from Survation showed a 51 to 49 majority in favour of remaining in the EU. That would leave us in a hideous no man’s land of legitimacy. How can 51:49 trump 52:48? That aside, I think the hopes of achieving a pro-EU majority are very slim, especially with the ill-equipped Barnier leading the EU side and doing his utmost to make sure he constantly antagonises British public opinion. It is beyond me what he thinks his job is.

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